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Fund Our NHS demonstration, February 2018. Photo: Jim Aindow

Fund Our NHS demonstration, February 2018. Photo: Jim Aindow

As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday on July 5, we need a big show of strength in London on June 30 to save it from the Tories

Despite 30 years of repeated attempts by government “reforms” to fragment and distort it, and to divert a growing share of the NHS budget into the coffers of profit-seeking private companies, it remains at core what it was in 1948: the world’s first universal, publicly-funded health care system, delivering care on the basis of clinical need, not ability to pay. It employs over 1 million well-trained, dedicated staff who daily show their commitment to the values of the NHS as a public service. And, despite widespread misconceptions that those rich enough can buy themselves an equivalent service privately, the NHS is the only provider of emergency and trauma care, the provider of the vast majority of all forms of elective treatment, and the only service that does not pick and choose its patients.

The tiny private sector, with its tiny hospitals are only interested in simple elective operations – and depend for their existence on the NHS training staff, filling empty private beds with NHS-funded patients, and providing intensive care and treatment of complex cases. Of course the NHS, and the quality of care it can deliver, has been damaged by eight years of effectively frozen funding since 2010, and before that by a succession of ideologically driven neoliberal policies that have sought to break it up into competing units, outsource and privatise support services and clinical care, privatise the provision of capital (PFI) and maximise the openings for grasping private companies at home and abroad.

Performance on all fronts has been falling, capacity reduced to well below equivalent health services elsewhere, staffing levels reduced to levels that run high risks of service failure, staff pay frozen below inflation since 2010, training of new staff hit by scrapping bursaries, and the NHS itself in England repeatedly reorganised, top-down, into more secretive, unaccountable units. Nor is it at all reassuring now to hear Theresa May, whose party and government have repeatedly lied and deceived the public on the levels of funding they were providing, promise a new NHS ‘long term funding plan’ – possibly financed through an extension of regressive taxation through National Insurance.

But the fact May has to pose as a supporter of the NHS, the fact that privatisation has been restricted in scope and many local plans for cuts in service have been blocked or delayed for years at a time indicates that campaigners are having an impact: if we fight we can win. It’s partly because of the giant protest on March 4 last year, called and organised by Health Campaigns Together and the People’s Assembly, that May could not secure the majority that would have let her pass new legislation for even more “reforms”. So it’s important we build a massive show of strength on June 30 in London – to celebrate and defend a service many of us literally can’t live without. let’s step up the pressure. Be there; join us, and bring your banners – and a smile: it will be big!

This article appeared originally in the Health Campaigns Together newspaper. Get your copy here.

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